Christie Thompson is living proof that knowing the symptoms of a heart attack can literally mean the difference between life and death. Just one month before suffering a heart attack, she had laughed at a video her sister-in-law emailed her. Produced by the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement, the entertaining short film, “Just a Little Heart Attack,” was meant to be a wake-up call for busy women who tend to ignore common symptoms.
“My sister-in-law is one of those great people who tries to save the world one email forward at a time,” jokes Christie. “I am very lucky she shared this message with me.”
While getting ready for bed one night, Christie experienced sharp pains in her chest. When the pains didn’t subside, she thought of the video and was convinced they were symptoms of a heart attack. She immediately called her daughter, and shortly after called 9-1-1. She was home alone, and knew she needed help, and needed it fast.
When the EMTs arrived, they confirmed Christie’s suspicions and rushed her to the nearest hospital. Within hours, she had a stent inserted into an artery that was 100 percent blocked.
The most startling aspect of the entire experience, she says, was not realizing that something was wrong or that she should make different health choices.
“I’d had a good check up at my doctor’s office just months before,” she says. “I felt like I was very proactive about my health and I always got all of the recommended tests, so for me this truly came out of nowhere.”
In the days before she experienced the attack, Christie felt just fine. She was walking her dog for an hour or two at a time, hanging holiday lights on her house and shopping with her daughter in preparation for her upcoming wedding.
That wedding became just the motivation Christie needed to get well – and quickly.
“I was lying there hooked up to IVs, an oxygen tank and all kinds of wires, but I just kept picturing myself dancing at my daughter’s wedding,” she says. “The wedding was just three weeks away, so I made it my goal to get well by then.”
Christie’s determination led to her release just a few days after her heart attack. She made it home in time for Thanksgiving dinner and attended her daughter’s bridal shower the next day. Three weeks later, Christie danced at her daughter’s wedding, just as she’d planned.
She not only attributes her recovery to the speed with which she was treated, but also to her own commitment to cardiac rehab.
“Rehab was not easy for me, but I stuck with it,” she says. “After the official program was over, I created my own routine that included cardio every single day and healthier eating.”
Christie also knows that understanding her symptoms and seeking immediate help made a huge difference. With no family history of heart disease and unnoticeable warning signs, she credits “Just a Little Heart Attack” with making the symptoms stick in her head.
“It was so entertaining that I really absorbed the message and I remembered it when it mattered most,” she says. “I’ve shared it with everyone I know because I believe it saved my life.”